Saturday, February 6, 2010

King Buster!

I am convinced that any audience will love Buster Keaton, spread the word and come back for more. In my college years, as I recall, I only happened to see the great man in COPS and BALLOONATICS and possibly SHERLOCK JR. at the U Film Society. Of course Keaton was still alive and active at the time and I had noticed him earlier on "Candid Camera" doing embarrassing stunts at a lunch counter while they filmed customer reactions. I also saw THE GENERAL at an early age but don't really remember the circumstances. It was around 1970 when Raymond Rohauer revived unseen gems like SEVEN CHANCES and all the Keaton silent features. These eventually made their way to video release by Kino on Video and sold many thousands.

The time is ripe to discover Buster anew, and this time with audiences in Café Roxy venues. Every episode of the All-Star Series (for lack of a better series name) contains one of Buster's silent comedy shorts made from 1920 to 1923. All are in the public domain and all are hilarious.

Locally, the Parkway Theater is showing a Buster Keaton Festival today and Sunday as part of their Matinee series. Silent shorts were never part of the Saturday Matinee experience, but who cares? It will be a terrific show with 4 cartoons and Flash Gordon serial. See the poster for details. All the details you need are that the 3 Keaton shorts are NEIGHBORS, THE SCARECROW and COPS.

A surprising development over at the Suburban World Theater is that they brought in a band to play every Sunday from 11 am to 2 pm. Cartoons run from 9 to 11, and then run silent behind the band. Music for movies is a natural. Remember silent movies? The band does and is excited to try playing for Buster Keaton in an unannounced trial run this Sunday. The short will come on with a Felix the Cat cartoon and the band will shift their music to accompany the films. If this turns into a weekly event they will add it to their poster. The current poster is shown here.

I have considered making Keaton wallpaper DVDs that only contain two shorts each that then repeat on the disc. That way a venue that finds success with the concept can obtain 10 different shows. They can advertise Buster Keaton night every Thursday, or whatever/whenever. A diner or bar patron may not stay longer than 40 minutes so he can catch the entire short that he happened to walk into the middle of.

I am also expanding programs of silent comedy shorts. The general public has a vague notion that silent comedy is funny and they can't easily find it elsewhere. Therefore they are likely to give it a try, or warm to the films if they walk in cold and find them playing. Meanwhile, anyone not interested will not be put out by silent films playing on large-screen TVs. The poster for a proposed showing in Oregon is a sample they will test soon. It is not yet a show that has played. Looks like a winner to me!

-- Ron Hall
See all the Roxy programs at

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